Gender pay gap levels differ between countries/members of the European Union, but among industries, too. In an effort to narrow down this gap, statistics are taken into consideration by the European Employment Strategy – which is a policy aiming at creating better job opportunities throughout the EU. The interesting part is that inequalities still exist at work and are the result of several factors. Here we examine the wage inequality differences among members of the European Union and take a quick look of the main reasons for such segregations.

What is the gender pay gap?

This is the difference between the earnings of women and men and is expressed as a percentage of male earnings. The gender pay gap is influenced by a large number of factors, including labor opportunities, differences in job preferences, education level, amount of experience, employment discriminations, breaks during the employment period and many more. Since we examine the gender pay gaps between EU countries, it’s best to keep in mind the social, cultural and political variants which identify each country also influence the results.

The 2013 statistics show that women’s earnings were lower than those of men by 16.4% in the 28 countries of the European Union and by 16.6% in the 19 countries which share the euro currency (economic and monetary union). These pay gaps among genders are also different between the public and private sector. The gap is much higher in the private than the public sector. The main reason for this is that the public sector must comply with certain requirements and employees are protected by laws – at least in most countries.

The level of gender pay gaps is seen best through three different determinants: the age, working status and context of work.

* Age differences

The gender pay gap increases with women of older age. The gap is much lower among younger people as the statistics in Denmark, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Spain and Finland show. A similar pattern, but to a more narrow extent is found in Portugal, United Kingdom, Romania, Poland, Malta, Cyprus, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The main reason for this pattern lies on social factors, which wanted older women to start their work at a later stage, focusing on child bearing and not benefiting of the latest equality measures.

* Working status

There are also differences among full-time and part-time employees. Although there are no exhaustive statistics for part time employees, as an overall the gender pay gap in 2013 ranged from -8.2% in Malta to 33.7% in Spain with the negative symbol indicating that the average hourly earnings of women are higher those of men. For full time workers, the percentages range from 1.9% in Italy to 20.3% in Hungary.

Data Source: EuroStat

The EU's Gender Pay Gap Visualised

This chart shows the estimated difference between average gross hourly earnings of men & women as a percentage of male gross earnings.

* Work context

It’s interesting that the gender wage segregation varies among different industries. The gap is greater in insurance and financial related industries than in the overall business economy. The gender pay gap in the economic related industries ranges from 16.8% in Croatia to 44.9% in Estonia whereas the higher gap in the business economy as a whole was found in Estonia with 29%.

It is also noticed that economic sectors, like sewerage, water supply, waste management, and remediation activities show negative gender gaps.